Obama presses budget boost for Wall Street watchdogs

Obama presses budget boost for Wall Street watchdogs
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The Obama administration is continuing to push for heftier budgets for its top Wall Street watchdogs in its latest budget request.

President Obama’s fiscal 2015 budget proposal would hike the funding levels of the Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission by at least a quarter. However, the administration is seeking a smaller CFTC boost than it has in previous years.

Under the president’s plan, the SEC would receive a 26 percent hike from current levels, up to $1.7 billion. The CFTC would see a 30 percent boost to $280 million under the president’s plan.

But while the president is pushing for more dollars for the SEC than he did in last year’s budget, he is actually taking a step back when it comes to the CFTC. In his fiscal 2014 plan, Obama pushed for a 50 percent increase for the small regulator, up to $315 million.

Nonetheless, the White House said the 2015 proposal would allow the agencies to “fully execute their responsibilities for financial oversight.”

That step back already has financial reform advocates fuming. The pro-reform group Better Markets issued a statement Monday, before the budget was released, urging the White House not to “wave the white flag of surrender … and abandon the financial regulators at their time of need.”

Both regulators have been given expanded workloads under the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. The CFTC in particular has seen its portfolio expand greatly, as Dodd-Frank charged it with overseeing the multitrillion dollar derivatives marketplace.

But despite the White House push for more dollars, Congress has failed to deliver. Under the spending agreement struck at the beginning of the year, the SEC is operating under a $1.35 billion budget, and the CFTC is working with a $215 budget.

Top officials with both agencies have pushed for more funding, calling their current levels insufficient. The CFTC had to shelve some regulatory matters last year, and even furlough workers, to make ends meet.

While the SEC’s budget is set by policymakers, the funds actually come from a fee the agency assesses on the financial industry. Its funding levels have no impact on the nation’s deficit.